We had read a number of reviews of Mount Rushmore itself, some very positive (especially espousing the feelings of patriotism that are felt by Americans as they observe the 60' carvings of presidents' heads in the mountainside) and some rather negative, talking about the commercialism and "touristy" nature of the park. We had limited time as we had to make it to Sioux Falls and I also wanted to visit a winery in Hill City, so we opted to go to Crazy Horse rather than Mount Rushmore. And we were very pleased that we did.
On the way there, I went in to what I thought was a winery, Stone Faces in Hill City. It turns out that this is not really a winery per se, but only a tasting room for another winery, Valiant Vineyards that is in Vermillion, SD, some 300 miles further east. The girl in the tasting room explained that the winemaker there, Eldon Nygaard was responsible for writing the law (The South Dakota Farm Winery Act) back in 1996 and established the first Farm Winery in the state there. Rather than taste the wines in Hill City, and knowing we were heading towards Sioux Falls, I said we would go there and visit. Unfortunately, I miscalculated the time we had available to fit everything in, and we never did make it to Valiant Vineyards, but I do plan to get hold of a bottle of their wine and taste it.
We headed to Crazy Horse in weather that was still very iffy. Mist and drizzle persisted as we drove through the Black Hills, but gradually it improved and the sun came out.
Ginnie has a particular interest in Native American culture, having written her first novel set in the Hopi and Navajo Lands of Arizona, so we were pleased to be able to see this monument, started by a white man and his family and funded entirely by private funds, to try to right some of the wrongs of the past in the way that the American Indians were treated.
In comparison to the Presidential stone faces of Mount Rushmore, the scale of Crazy Horse is colossal. It is the world's largest mountain carving. The face of the sculpture is completed and the wife, Ruth, and children of the sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski who started the carving in 1948 and died in 1982, are continuing the project. We were able to take Hopi into the visitor center as long as we held him. We went in to the theater to see the orientation video and scared the poor little guy half to death. He hates guns, bangs and explosions and the video shows in graphic detail how the sculpture is made by using a combination of high explosives to blow away huge chunks of the mountain, and heavy machinery.
The project is incredible and you really have to see it to understand the scale. The visitor center is fascinating also and we spent a long time there.
As we left Crazy Horse, we headed briefly through Rapid City and visited another winery, Prairie Berry, whose family have been making fruit, honey and berry wines in South Dakota since 1876. The Vojta Family came to South Dakota from Moravia and now the wines are being made by 5th Generation, Sandi Jojta. Many of the wines are fruit based (they are famous for a fun little number called Red Ass, which is made from rhubarb!) but I tried a few of the grape wines that were interesting and better than I expected. La Crescent 2009 was a semi-dry (or semi sweet depending on which way you look at it) white wine made from native grapes grown in South Dakota. The blush, called Pink Slip was mostly white Zinfandel (!) but the red Sand Creek was very good. Made with a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and what they call River Grapes, this had fullness, a fine bouquet and hints of the oak in which it had been aged. At $21 a bottle, this is serious wine and was an unexpected pleasure from a state that in not perhaps noted for its winemaking prowess.
Our journey continued along Interstate 90 and we arrived late at out final hotel, a very nice Homewood Suites in Sioux City where we were able to order a good steak for delivery to the room. We opened a bottle of wine and tried to take in the fact the the next day would be the last one of our trip and that we would soon be back in Wisconsin.